Adding English would make us all safer

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Free Press, Letters, Feb. 14, 2017

As we all know, all traffic signs on Quebec highways are solely in French. When driving, do you know what «Respectez les feux de voies», «Risque d’aquaplanage», «Dégel», «Ralentir», «Allumez vos phares», «Voie cahoteuse» and «Incident voie droite bloquée» mean?

Are you aware that according to the Charter of the French Language, the French inscription on traffic signs may be complemented or replaced by symbols or pictographs, and another language may be used where no symbol or pictograph exists? Seeing that the aforementioned phrases have to deal with one’s safety, why are they not in English as well, as the charter clearly provides?

It absolutely makes no sense whatsoever that the protection of the French language is more important than one’s safety. Shouldn’t the safety of everyone, whether French speaking or English speaking, be of prime importance? That is precisely why Ruth Kovac and I presented a petition to the provincial legislature through our legislator David Birnbaum.

Time is running out. The deadline of March 2 to sign the petition is fast approaching.

If you have already signed the petition, we thank you. If you have not signed, please do so. However, in all instances, please make sure that you share this with your family, friends, acquaintances, neighbours and your neighbours’ friends. Share on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The petition can be found at: www.assnat.qc.ca/en/exprimez-votre-opinion/petition/Petition-6407/index.html.

Numbers do speak volumes and volumes can bring about change. The petition has nothing to do with language; it has everything to do with safety.

Ruth Kovac, Côte St. Luc

Harold Staviss, Hampstead

Opinion: Safety should trump language for Quebec highway signs | Montreal Gazette

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The following is an excellent opinion piece by my friends Ruth and Harold. The petition to allow for bilingual sfaety signs on Quebec highways is on the National Assembly website, which has over 5,000 signatures. The petition can be seen and signed at www.assnat.qc.ca/en/exprimez-votre-opinion/petition/Petition-6407/index.html

Opinion: Safety should trump language for Quebec highway signs | Montreal Gazette

CSL, Hampstead call for bilingual traffic safety signs

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The petition on the National Assembly website, which had 4,317 signatures as of Jan. 5, was initiated by Hampstead lawyer Harold Staviss and Côte St. Luc councillor Ruth Kovac, and sponsored by D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum. The petition can be seen at www.assnat.qc.ca/en/exprimez-votre-opinion/petition/Petition-6407/index.html. The deadline to sign is March 2.

Kovac, who moved Côte St. Luc’s resolution, has been working with Staviss to, within the language law, lobby companies and government agencies to increase bilingualism on signage and in communications with consumers.

Councillor Glenn Nashen, who himself has been lobbying for increased bilingualism on government websites, seconded Côte St. Luc’s resolution.

The two municipal resolutions point out the facts of the petition, that “the second paragraph of section 22 of the Charter states that the French language may be accompanied by another language when indicated by reason of health or public safety and where no symbol or pictograph exists,” and that the province has not, for the most part, installed such signs.

The two resolutions ask the Quebec Transport and Culture and Communications ministries to “take the necessary steps in order that all traffic signs and electronic alerts/messages dealing with public safety or health be in both French and English, when no symbol or pictograph exists.”

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Read more:

Quebec not budging on English for public safety signs

Pushing for bilingual highway safety signs

Letter to the Editor, The Gazette, English safety signage allowed on Quebec highways

Language control sends a dangerous message

Prime Minister Trudeau delivers Kol Nidrei sermon in Westmount, Housefather meets congregation in Hampstead

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for Kol Nidei 5777, with David Cape, Rabbi Adam Sheier, Michael Stern and Claire Berger. Shaare Hashomayim Congregation, Westmount, Quebec. (Photo JJ Schneiderman).

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at Kol Nidei services 5777, with David Cape, Rabbi Adam Sheier, Michael Stern and Claire Berger. Shaare Hashomayim Congregation, Westmount, Quebec. (Photo JJ Schneiderman).

Never before in Canadian history has a Prime Minister attended Yom Kippur services and delivered the Kol Nidrei sermon. Until now. Kol Hakavod to Canada’s highest elected official for doing exactly this past Tuesday evening at Westmount’s venerable Shaare Hashomayim congregation.

“On this occasion, families and loved ones gather to fast and pray, reflect on the past year, and seek peace and reconciliation for the year to come,” the Prime Minister said in a statement. “Yom Kippur is an opportunity for us all to reflect on the tremendous contributions that the Jewish Canadian community has made – and continues to make – to the shaping and building of our great country. We know that Canada is a stronger and more resilient country because of its diversity.

“On behalf of our entire family, Sophie and I wish an easy fast to all those observing Yom Kippur. G’mar Chatimah Tova.”

Anthony Housefather

Anthony Housefather

 

The Prime Minster was accompanied by Mount Royal MP Anthony Housefather, NDG-Westmount MP Marc Garneau and Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Sœurs MP Marc Miller.

Housefather spoke on Yom Kippur to Congregation Dorshei Emet in Hampstead and recounted how the Prime Minister spoke passionately and emotionally about his recent visit to Aushwitz accompanied by survivors and Canadian Jewish leaders. This was a very moving experience for Justin Trudeau, Housefather said, and he was particularly gratified to bear witness in the company and through the eyes of one of the remaining survivors.

What’s more, Justin Trudeau lead a Canadian delegation to last week’s state funeral for former Israeli President Shimon Peres. Trudeau recounted his personal experiences with the Israeli leader. Trudeau also met with his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu during the rapid visit to the Jewish State.

Housefather’s address seamlessly drifted between the spiritual principles of Yom Kippur, the lofty expectations of Canada’s Jewish community and his responsibilities and accomplishments as one of Canada’s seven Jewish MPs. “I represent the second largest federal constituency in Canada (after Thornhill) and the largest non-French-speaking constituency in Quebec,” Housefather said, indicating this places him in a unique position to speak out in support of minority rights, language rights, tolerance and inclusion.

High among Housefather’s achievements since his election last November is his appointment as chair of the committee overseeing the Justice department and human rights issues, especially their legislative work dealing with Doctor Assisted Dying as well as his forceful stance against the anti-Israel, anti-Semitic, Boycott Divestment Sanction (BDS) movement.

In an all-encompassing, hour long speech and Q&A without as much as a cue card to guide his eloquent and erudite remarks, the affable and witty Housefather covered all the bases in reassuring the audience of his government’s deep commitment to Canada’s Jewish community.

“A year ago many in the community were preaching that only one candidate, one party, could continue to represent the interests of our community,” Housefather said. “With Justin Trudeau’s undeniable commitment to the State of Israel, with our government voting almost unanimously in a free vote denouncing BDS, in our efforts to organize a Jewish contingent representative of our entire community during Chanukah on the Hill and so much more, I think we have proven to those that doubted our intentions and abilities that the Canadian Jewish community is very, very well represented on Parliament Hill and across our country,” the MP said to applause.

Housefather indicated that his committee has recommended reinstatement of the Court Challenges Program previously scrapped by the Harper government. That program allowed for funding of challenges from the English-speaking community in Quebec and from French-speaking communities outside of Quebec in support of minority language communities. With Housefather as a former president of Alliance Quebec, and my having served as his Executive Director at AQ, I can attest to the critical importance of this program to linguistic minorities through our country and I look forward to the reinstatement of this program.

I personally thanked Housefather on behalf of the residents of Cote Saint-Luc and indicated how proud I was of his many achievements in such a short period of time. Congregation President Jodi Lackman wrapped up the event by stating how upset she was when she learned that Housefather would be running for Parliament as she would be losing her “amazing mayor.”

“But now that you’re our MP and I’ve seen what great work you’re doing on our behalf, I’m even happier,” the president said.

Hydro-Québec tweets in English

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Côte St. Luc Councillor Glenn Nashen is hailing Hydro-Québec’s decision to present information on Twitter in English as well as French.

Nashen, who has called for English content on Montreal and Quebec government websites and Twitter feeds for the last few years, revealed the news on his blog. We looked at Hydro-Québec’s English-language @hydro_customer Twitter feed and discovered that it has existed since the end of this past April.

Nashen mentioned the lack, for the most part, of Hydro-Québec English tweets on his blog in 2014.

“Previously, the public utility would only Tweet in English when they deemed the message to be an emergency and even then they required reminders or requests to do so,” Nashen wrote last week. “Information about power outages, general information and power saving tips, promotions and other info is now available on Twitter at @hydro_customer.

“There is hardly a good reason for a critical infrastructure public utility to restrict their messaging to French only,” Nashen added. “They could easily have created two Twitter feeds, in both languages, from the outset. Their response to me was that they only Tweet out emergencies in English. Dissatisfied, I pursued this matter until they finally created their English Twitter feed. Hydro also has an excellent mobile app to report and monitor power outages and useful tools on its website, all available in English.”

Nashen credited D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum and his chief of staff Elisabeth Prass with “advocating with the minister and bureaucrats in Quebec City on behalf of constituents. They take this responsibility very seriously and on behalf of my constituents I wish to express my gratitude to them both.”

The councillor also lauded the continuing efforts of Hampstead lawyer Harold Staviss and fellow Côte St. Luc Councillor Ruth Kovac for language respect for the anglophone community from private companies and government agencies, and The Suburban‘s ongoing coverage of the issue.

“Now this is a call to all you Twitterers out there,” Nashen added. “There are only 150 followers (157 as of Thursday afternoon-I just added my name) on Hydro’s Twitter feed. Please click @hydro_customer now and follow them. Let’s see how quickly we can double this number. And let all of your followers know as well and we’ll increase it even more and send a message to the utility that this was a necessary and positive initiative. So thank you Hydro-Québec for doing what was right and sensible. Their positive actions should shine as an example to be followed by other agencies and departments. Merci beaucoup.”

The Hydro-Québec Twitter feed actually responded to Nashen’s blog. “Thank you for your kind words,” says the Twitter entry. “We are more than happy to serve our English-speaking customers on @hydro_customer.”

Prodding Hydro Quebec to Tweet in English pays off

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After a few years of continuous urging, Hydro Quebec has finally decided to respect its English-speaking customers by Tweeting in English.

Previously, the public utility would only Tweet in English when they deemed the message to be an emergency and even then they required reminders or requests to do so. Information about power outages, general information and power saving tips, promotions and other info is now available on Twitter at @hydro_customer.

I had written to Hydro Quebec on occasion (search my blog for more about this) about the fact that they only Tweet out their power failure and other public messages in French only. This seemed totally counterproductive to me. There is hardly a good reason for a critical infrastructure public utility to restrict their messaging to French only. They could easily have created two Twitter feeds, in both languages, from the outset. Their response to me was that they only Tweet out emergencies in English. Di satisfied, I pursued this matter until they finally created their English Twitter feed.

Despite this step forward in providing information to customers in English, questions about your bill, electricity use or services will only be responded to from Mon. to Fri. (8 a.m.-8:30 p.m.) & on weekends (9 a.m.-5 p.m) on Hydro’s French Twitter feed @client_hydro.

Hydro also has an excellent mobile app to report and monitor power outages and useful tools on its website, all available in English.

The assistance of D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum and his tireless Chief of Staff Elisabeth Prass was instrumental in advocating with the minister and bureaucrats in Quebec City on behalf of constituents. They take this responsibility very seriously and on behalf of my constituents I wish to express my gratitude to them both.

Also of importance is the continuing coverage of language related issues brought to the attention of the public by local reporter Joel Goldenberg in the Suburban Newspaper. Joel’s reporting of language rights and the reluctance of certain city and provincial departments, as well as private companies, to show proper respect to English-speaking Quebecers as well as other Canadians and tourists has been very helpful.

Joel has been reporting on the exemplary work of Cote Saint-Luc Councillor Ruth Kovac and Hampstead lawyer Harold Staviss in their relentless pursuit of respect for English-speaking Quebecers. I hope Joel continues to demonstrate local journalistic advocacy which is proving to be beneficial, one step at a time.

Now this is  call to all you Twitterers out there. There are only 150 followers on Hydro’s Twitter feed as of this date. Please click @hydro_customer now and follow them. Let’s see how quickly we can double this number. And let all of your followers know as well and we’ll increase it even more and send a message to the utility that this was a necessary and positive initiative.

So thank you Hydro Quebec for doing what was right and sensible. Their positive actions should shine as an example to be followed by other agencies and departments. Merci beaucoup.

 

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2016-09-14-hydro-tweet

 

SAAQ motorist-bicycle safety site only in French

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A new Quebec government website advises motorists what measures they should take to safely share the road with cyclists.

However, the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec website respectonsnosdistances.gouv.qc.ca/is only in French. As The Suburban reported recently, Quebec’s language law generally allows for bilingualism where safety is involved, and numerous Quebec government websites have information in English.

The site points out the rules of the road for motorists, such as a driver being able to pass a cyclist on the same lane as long as the driver reduces his or her speed, and stays the required distance away from the cyclist.

The French-only status of the site was pointed out to us by Côte St. Luc councillor Glenn Nashen, who has called for other municipal and provincial-related websites to contain English content as well.

Hampstead lawyer Harold Staviss, who has lobbied with Côte St. Luc councillor Ruth Kovac for more bilingualism from businesses and government in areas with significant anglophone populations, wrote to D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum about the website and a recent French-only June 29 communiqué, also about safety on the road between drivers and cyclists, as well as an announcement of tougher punishments for drivers who open doors on passing cyclists.

Birnbaum told The Suburban Monday he was not able to convince Transports Quebec to issue an English version of the June 29 communiqué, and expressed his disappointment.

Birnbaum added that he was only made aware of Staviss’s objection to the new website Monday, and was not able to comment yet.

We have contacted Transports Quebec, and await their response.

Source: SAAQ motorist-bicycle safety site only in French | City News | thesuburban.com

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In my opinion: Thanks to MNA David Birnbaum and his trusty Chief of Staff, Elisabeth Prass. They wasted no time following up on my email to them wherein I expressed concern and dismay that the Quebec Transport Department did not seem to think this very important safety message was important to convey to the English-speaking community. The oppressive language laws do indeed permit public safety messages to be carried in a language other than French. Transport officials should be more in line with Premier Couillard’s election message to the English-speaking community that we are not the enemy and our language does not diminish the French language.

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